20 January 2015

Does PM Lee Understand Citizens' Unhappiness With Immigration?

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke with some journalists recently.

This is what he said about immigration.

"I think there was a strong emotional reaction when we put out the [Population] White Paper. In retrospect, if we had had a bit more time to prepare the ground to explain it, to soft sell and prepare people to understand what it is which is the issue and what we are trying to do. We should have done that, but that's water under the bridge."

One school of thought is that the Government did not want to give the public or the Opposition too much time to discuss and digest the Population White Paper.
Two years have passed since the Population White Paper was published. More than a year has passed since the year-long Singapore Conversation, during which the population issues were discussed, ended. Many people are as against the 6.9 million population "planning parameter" now as they were two years ago.

"I can understand the reactions of people because they are not reacting on the basis of reading a paper and then trying to take a dispassionate, almost academic approach, to what should be done. They are reacting on the basis of their direct contacts — colleagues at work, people in the MRT trains, public places where foreign workers may gather — and they have a reaction because things have changed. Now, is it for the better or not?"

The people were reacting initially to the physical manifestations of the massive immigration such as over-crowding in MRT trains and buses. But they soon realised that the Government had allowed the immigration floodgates to be opened so wide for so long that foreigners were taking away many of the PMET jobs that many citizens believed they were more than adequately qualified for; foreign students on scholarships given by our Government were competing with citizens for coveted places in coveted courses at the three local universities; and foreigners and permanent residents (who really are citizens of, and owe their loyalty to, another country) accounted for almost 39 per cent of the population (in June 2013), up from 26 per cent in 2000.

"It's a reaction which you see in many countries. It's a reaction you see even in Hong Kong or Taiwan between Chinese and Chinese which in our case I think I am not surprised that there are some such anxiety among Singaporeans."

Neither the Hong Kong Chinese nor the Taiwanese Chinese consider the mainland Chinese to be the same as they. Mr Lee says he thinks he is not surprised at the anxieties of Singaporeans — is he not convinced?

"I think we've worked hard at this. We've calibrated our policies, we've slowed down the inflows, we've tightened up on foreign workers. In fact, it's causing employers a lot of pain. We will continue to adjust to get the balance as right as we can, but I don't think that we are going to be able to relax because we have to continue in a sustainable way but neither are we able to say we go to zero and let's do away with all these people — we don't need all these people to build our trains, we don't need them to make our houses, we don't need them to serve us noodles in the middle of the night when we go down to the hawker centre. I think that is not practical."

Mr Lee again used the Government's oft-used extreme but nonsensical argument — that the alternative to immigration is no immigration. The people's grouse is not about the foreign workers who build our infrastructure or do the work that most Singaporeans shun, but with the PMETs who displace citizens, and foreign students, funded by our government, who displace citizen students at local universities.

Some of the infrastructure projects could have been delayed had immigration been more measured. These infrastructure projects themselves need another wave of immigrants for their construction.

Many companies sprang up or expanded in response to the perceived business potential associated with the huge inflow of foreigners. They have themselves (and perhaps the Government) to blame if they believed that the immigration policies would remain so liberal into the foreseeable future.

"So we have to talk about this. We have to talk about it on both sides. With Singaporeans — to understand why it is necessary and how we are adapting our policies to minimise the impact and the side effects. But with the foreigners too — what are the rules when you come here, when you live here you are living in Singapore you have to comply and fit in with Singapore laws and customs and not the norms and customs of your own country. It takes a while. There will be some people who will behave badly on both sides — Singaporeans who rant away, some foreigners occasionally rant away; there was one person this last couple of weeks working in Tan Tock Seng who's been fired — but we should not let these bad behaviours affect the overall relationship. I mean, amongst ourselves, we know the limits between different religions, between different races and everybody knows what is good behaviour and what is unacceptable behaviour. I think we need to develop those norms also between Singaporeans who are native born or who have been here a long time and those who are not so long here and those who are visiting or working here but not Singaporeans."

Talking will not change the public's feelings about immigrants and immigration. Talking will not change the fact that immigrant PMETs are competing with or displacing citizens in their (the citizens') own country; foreign students funded by our government using our money are competing with or displacing citizen students for places in the local universities; and foreigners make up a very large percentage of the population.
"I think in retrospect it's easy to say that we should have been building up our infrastructure a lot faster, that we should have got our trains running, that we should have got our HDB flats built more. At the time, we thought we were doing the right thing — pacing it, measuring it out, building it when we need it and not spending resources until we needed to spend them. It turned out that things didn't pan out the way we expected and I think we have to plan in the future less conservatively and be less precise in our prognostication."

The inadequacy of our infrastructure is due to the Government's opening the immigration floodgates and allowing the non-resident population, not just to double over a few years but also to constitute a significant percentage of the total population.

It's not just the physical infrastructure that is strained to the limit, or beyond. Our police force-to-population ratio is very much lower than Hong Kong's, London's, New York's or Tokyo's, for example.
Things didn't pan out the way the Government had expected? What was it expecting? What was it thinking? Was it a lack of planning or a curious lack of awareness of what was taking place on the ground?
Does Mr Lee understand the citizens' unhappiness with the People's Action Party Government's immigration policies?


  1. You think you will understand the peasant when you earn millions without being accountable or transparent. Your wife works under you and probably makes ten times more than you for losing money. The whole civil service shivers when your dad farts and judges stand up in court for him. What do you think. You probably cannot understand why people hate you so much when you father, you and your family had made so much sacrifices for the country. Your father might not have served 20 years in prison fighting for the freedom of the country or take up arms against the British but he did put away so many people for a long long time. That takes sacrifice. You sacrificed your wife to serve the nation by taking the challenge to daringly lose money and yet earn millions.

  2. The Singapore people should exercise their voting power in the upcoming election to reject the PAP and its free-for-all immigration policy. There is no other way.